ReachOut Australia, with the University of Melbourne and the University of Wollongong, is undertaking a major new research project that investigates the impacts of online mental health services by studying 1,500 young people who use the service over time.

Early data from the project, which commenced in December 2014, reveals important findings about young people who visit each month.

Of the 139,000 Australians who came to last month (March 2015), 61,000 were young Australians aged 16–25 years.

The new research, which uses the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) and the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire, estimates that of the 61,000 young people who accessed in March:

  • 89% reported experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety and/or stress;
  • more than 29,000 reported thinking about taking their life in the past month; and
  • 71% reported not otherwise accessing help from any other mental health professionals.

“Coupled with previous research that showed 60% of people accessing do so after hours, and that 21% live in regional, rural or remote Australia where face-to-face services are less available, these new findings paint a very clear picture of the vital role played by online services,” said ReachOut Australia CEO Jono Nicholas.

“Importantly, we also know from a 2013 study that 46% of people experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress are more likely to seek additional help after visiting

There is growing research showing that as people become unwell with depressive symptoms or suicidal thinking, they become less able to recognise symptoms and more likely to withdraw from people around them.

Co-investigator on the study, Dr Coralie Wilson from the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Wollongong and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, says “it is very positive that despite the thinking difficulty associated with suicidal thinking, the data shows a large number of young people who are reporting recent suicidal thoughts have found, which offers hope and support.

“In the next phase of the project we will conduct further analyses that will deepen our understanding of levels of suicide risk related to help-seeking behaviour in young people inside We are particularly keen to identify the different help-seeking pathways that are related to particular types of suicidal thoughts and features of depression, anxiety and stress. The new information will give us important information about the most effective ways to support young people who report different types and features of distress”.

More detailed results from the full research project will be released in late 2015.

Need to talk to someone right now?

Young people can turn to from anywhere and at any time, for peer support and to learn more about what they’re going through.

National 24/7 crisis phone services include Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

About ReachOut Australia

ReachOut is Australia’s leading online mental health organisation for young people, providing practical support to help them get through everything from everyday issues to tough times.

Since 1998, ReachOut has worked alongside young people to deliver online tools that address youth mental health and reduce youth suicide. Available anytime and pretty much anywhere, ReachOut receives over 1.85 million visitors a year.